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Evaluating the trouble spots on Oklahoma State’s depth chart headed into 2022
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OKLAHOMA STATE FOOTBALL

Evaluating the trouble spots on Oklahoma State’s depth chart headed into 2022

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Fiesta Bowl (copy)

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy walks onto the field during a timeout during the Playstation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.

Columnist Guerin Emig and beat writer Eli Lederman talk transfer portal, Spencer Sanders the open defensive coordinator position and more.

STILLWATER — Since the Dec. 4 Big 12 Championship game, eight of Oklahoma State’s scholarship players have entered the transfer portal. Five more opted to forgo remaining eligibility to enter the NFL Draft after the New Year’s Day Fiesta Bowl. And the Cowboys who used their final year of college eligibility in 2021, a group headlined by Malcolm Rodriguez, Devin Harper and Jaylen Warren, are gone, too.

Less than two weeks after the 37-35 bowl win over Notre Dame, OSU’s roster looks different in some places more than others with problems to be solved from within or through the transfer portal.

Here’s a look at the top three trouble spots on the Cowboys’ depth chart headed into 2022:

Secondary

Last week, cornerback Jarrick Bernard-Converse tweeted a GIF of actor Will Smith pacing alone in an empty living room from the 1990s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. OSU’s secondary appears similarly lonely at the moment.

Cornerback Christian Holmes exhausted his eligibility in 2021. He’ll play in front of pro scouts at the Hula Bowl on Saturday. And the Cowboys are down three starting-level safeties since the win over Notre Dame with Kolby Harvell-Peel and Tre Sterling headed to the NFL Draft and Tanner McCalister to Ohio State. Not even Bernard-Converse has announced whether he’ll return for the Cowboys in 2022.

If the All-Big 12 defensive back is back for a fifth season next fall, OSU will be searching for his new partner in the cornerback tandem with rising juniors Korie Black and Jabbar Muhammad — who tallied eight tackles and two pass breakups in the bowl game — poised to compete for the second starting spot. Former walk-on DeSean Buckner could also factor in.

Playmaking safety Jason Taylor II proved himself capable as a starter this past fall when he recorded 37 tackles, two picks and a fumble recovery. For the other two starting spots, the Cowboys have veterans in Thomas Harper, Kanion Williams, Trey Rucker and Sean Michael Flangagan and a promising young crop that includes Kendal Daniels, Ty Williams, Lyrik Rawls and Nick Sessions.

A secondary that paced the Big 12 in pass defense efficiency won't look the same in 2022.

Offensive line

Center Danny Godlevske and left guard Josh Sills won’t be back next fall, leaving the Cowboys missing two starting offensive linemen and a pair of veteran leaders up front.

In addition to Godlevske and Sills’ exits, OSU’s depth has taken a hit since the Cowboys left Arizona with linemen Hunter Anthony, Monroe Mills and Cade Bennett all headed for new homes.

Anthony, who entered the transfer portal in December, committed to Nebraska on Jan. 2, while Mills is staying in the Big 12 with Texas Tech. Bennett remains in the portal after appearing in two games in 2021.

OSU does have reinforcements, however. Offensive tackle Tyrone Webber, the No. 4 junior college recruit in the country per 247Sports.com, is set to join the Cowboys, along with class of 2022 linemen Calvin Henry and Austin Kawecki. Former junior college transfer Caleb Etienne, who played in three games in 2021, could also find himself a role next fall.

And after Godlevske and Sills proved transfer success, the Cowboys may dip into the portal to solve their problems on the offensive line. OSU recently extended offers to transfer linemen Mac Hollensteiner (Georgetown) and Michael Shanahan (Tennessee-Martin).

Running back

Gone in 2022 are Jaylen Warren, LD Brown and Dezmon Jackson, the running backs who took nearly 80% of the Cowboys’ handoffs this past season.

Their departures leave Dominic Richardson and Jaden Nixon as the likely candidates to man OSU’s backfield. Coach Mike Gundy also said following the bowl game that he plans to get at least one of his freshman running backs ready with four-star rushers CJ Brown and Ollie Gordon arriving on campus.

The Cowboys, as they did with Warren in 2021, could also look to the portal for help. Colorado’s Jarek Broussard, Maryland's Isaiah Jacobs (Owasso High School) and Buffalo’s Dylan McDuffie highlight a deep pool of available running backs. OSU offered Stanford leading rusher Nathaniel Peat on Wednesday.

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OSU Sports Writer

I cover Oklahoma State athletics for the Tulsa World. I have previously worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Emporia Gazette in Kansas and the Columbia Missourian. I graduated from the University of Missouri in 2020 and am a native of Mamaroneck, NY.

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